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For instance, symbolic thinking in the Hostos environment creates a reinforcement of the unfortunate stereotypes applied to our student population. As Ridley (2008) tells us, “When one thinks symptomatically, one is led by the symptoms of one’s experience. Instead of mythologizing, one reads the symptoms of their existence like a language, to which they respond accordingly. This means they do not mythologize the events in their life, nor do they approach their life with a symbolizing attitude (p.140). Rather than allowing the disadvantaged environment that surrounds our students to dictate our response to them, we want to encourage our students to excel at every encounter!

As teaching methodologies have evolved, an applicable approach has been that of “flipping the classroom”. In such an environment, the instructor utilizes technology to facilitate learning outside the classroom, thereby liberating classroom time for fertile discussion, inquiry and reflection. I have found great utility in the use of the Panopto lecture capture tool, which allows me to record lectures that students can view at their leisure. The result is amplified student engagement in the classroom, as they transition from passive learning to increased interaction with the instructor.

An effective approach toward changing student behavior is to challenge first-year students with a semester assignment on immigration. Many Hostos students are living the experience, and the assignment gives them permission to reflect, especially in the midst of today’s challenges surrounding the immigrant experience. Their mandatory deliverable is to take a position on the pending immigration legislation and defend their point of view. Their subsequent research enables them to identify and link the potential economic benefit gained by the contribution of the many undocumented workers in our population. Naturally, this assignment provides an illumination not experienced previously – the students gravitate towards the content with enthusiasm, including personal stories of themselves or family and friends.

An additional teaching moment is to invite students to link their classroom inquiries into ad hoc, extra-credit presentations as a way of having their question answered. This activity, earlier noted as “flipping the classroom”, leads students down an unexpected path of research and investigation that is new to them, including preparing and presenting presentations to educate the entire class – and the professor! Very importantly, the students’ lack of self-confidence and general lack of self-esteem is significantly and collectively diminished.

Assignments were accompanied by full-semester messaging regarding the students’ potential for capitalizing on the nation’s changing demographics. Emphasis is always placed on diminishing and/or eliminating the tendency to think symbolically, which hinders learning. Students are reminded about their correct place in history – this goes a long way towards encouraging full development. The outcome is a strengthened resolve to overcome future obstacles in school and in life.


For a true 21st century teaching and learning environment, professors are advised to:

  • Implement the Symptomatic Thought Process (STP) to confront inappropriate stereotyping and unfortunate belief systems (also known as symbolic behavior).
  • Remember that the Symptomatic Thought Process (STP) offers the objective to “see things as they really are void of superstition or mythological assumptions” (Ridley, 2008, pp. 137-139).
  • Discontinue symbolic thinking – poor outcomes should be evidence-based, not imaginary. Symbolic thinking is a learned activity; it is not innate to the human brain.
  • Practice thinking symptomatically – be acutely mindful of the potential for deeper engagement with ESL learners.
  • Symptomatic thinking is natural, it is innate to the human brain.
  • Do not assume silence infers lack of knowledge.
  • Be creative with the construction of pedagogy.
  • Flip the classroom to intensify engagement and encourage enthusiasm.
About the Author

Linda is a tenured Lecturer at CUNY’s Hostos Community College, where she teaches Principles of Management (BUS 201) and Introduction to Business (BUS 100). Additionally, she is an Adjunct Professor and Industry Expert at CUNY’s School of Professional Studies in the M.S. program for Business Management and Leadership, where she teaches Organizational Behavior and Leadership (BUS 600), and Managing Diversity in a Global Economy (BUS 633).

As a complement to her teaching, Linda is CEO of Edgar J. Ridley & Associates, Inc., an international management consulting firm specializing in change management. Linda has been designated an Expert Consultant by the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) out of Tokyo, Japan, and she services global clients, conducting workshops and training seminars in workplace effectiveness. Linda has conducted training for women entrepreneurs from companies and organizations throughout Southeast Asia. Linda has the additional prestige of being on the faculty of the American Management Association, where her portfolio includes corporate training in analytical topics such as Critical Thinking, High-Impact Decision Making, and High Performance Accountability.

Linda studied at Virginia Commonwealth University; she earned her Masters in Business Administration from the Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. She and her husband, Edgar, reside in Harlem, New York City.

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